Menopause symptoms on their own are enough to make you want to rip your hair out. From hot flashes to sleeplessness to vaginal dryness, it’s a lot to deal with at once. And there’s yet another menopause symptom that many women shy away from talking about: hair loss and thinning hair.
It’s not that it’s uncommon: a new study found over 52% of women over 50 will experience hair loss after menopause, and it’s not abnormal to experience it even younger than that — one in eight women under 35 struggle with hair loss.
So why aren’t more women talking about it? For one, it can be embarrassing. Though hair loss is practically a coming-of-age rite for men, women are expected to have a full head of hair at any age.
When Sex and the City star Kristen Davis spoke out about her thinning hair, even she admitted that she tried to push the thought out of her mind. “I hadn’t been worrying about it — I have my daughter — but when I tried to do something or had to go somewhere I was like, ‘Where is my hair?’” she said.
And if we’re not talking about it with our friends, you can bet that many women are not talking about it with their doctors. There is a ton of misinformation out there, so let’s take a look at some of the most popular myths about menopause and hair loss.
Is hair loss genetic?
Hair loss during menopause can happen as a result of a combination of things, especially as you age: genetics, stress, side effects from a new medication, diet, and the simple fact that our hair gets finer as we get older. Your doctor can help you rule out other potential causes, like hyperthyroidism.
Female pattern hair loss, or androgenetic alopecia, is the most common kind of hair loss in women. Androgenetic alopecia happens as the result of a genetically predetermined shorter growth phase. So after you shed hair naturally (it’s perfectly normal to shed 50-100 hairs every day, by the way), alopecia simply slows down your hair’s regrowth. The hair follicles shrink, resulting in thinning hair.
Will I lose all of my hair during menopause?
Women don’t experience hair loss like men do. Instead of a receding hairline and pronounced bald spots, most women experience thinning hair, particularly at the scalp. You won’t suddenly wake up bald, but that doesn’t make the problem any easier to deal with.
Should I see a doctor about hair loss during menopause?
Absolutely. Some women aren’t vocal about the problem because it isn’t life threatening, and they don’t want to appear vain, especially if they’re comparing it to other menopause symptoms like hot flashes and sleeplessness that impact their daily lives.
But the truth is, hair loss does impact your daily life. It can make you feel self-conscious, leading to anxiety and depression. What’s more, hair loss is a very real and common menopause symptom that your doctor should know about. You have every right to an open discussion with your doctor about treatments for your hair loss. You’ll find some of those options below.
Are there treatments for hair loss?
First, see your doctor to help rule out any causes of hair loss that aren’t purely genetic. They may recommend one of the following treatments:
- Minoxidil is one of the most popular hair loss treatments (Rogaine is the best-known brand of minoxidil) and 60 percent of women have reported regrowth while using it. It’s applied directly to the scalp on a regular basis. One of the complaints about minoxidil is that it takes a long time to work — at least two months or more. And minoxidil doesn’t fully restore your hair’s original thickness.
- Oral medications like spironolactone are sometimes used for women who haven’t been successful with minoxidil. They can block the androgen hormones that often cause hair loss in women. They do come with a few side effects, including weight gain, loss of sex drive, depression, and fatigue.
- Iron supplements are sometimes recommended to women with an iron deficiency who experience hair loss. However, while iron supplements work well for combating an iron deficiency, there is no evidence that they can help women with hair loss during menopause.
- Hair transplant surgery is an option when you have thinning hair on the top of your head. During surgery, your dermatologist or surgeon would remove tiny patches of skin from the back or sides of your scalp and implant them into the bald sections. The downside? It can be very expensive and painful.
- Laser therapy is an option recently approved by the FDA for hereditary hair loss. It can improve hair density.
What about vitamins and supplements?
There are dozens of trendy supplements out there that claim to support hair growth, like those ridiculous gummies endorsed by the Kardashians. Hair growth supplements typically contain vitamin C, vitamin A, Omega 3 fatty acids, and biotin. While these vitamins may not be harmful, they’ll do little to regrow hair or help thicken thinning hair.
What’s more, a healthy diet will provide all of those vitamins naturally. If you’re already getting the nutrients you need, you don’t need to take supplements.
Got any styling tips for women with thinning hair?
Parting your hair on a different side, getting a shorter haircut, getting layers added to your hair, and embracing different hair accessories can make your hair feel fuller and thicker. Talk to your hair stylist about your options for keeping your hair healthy and full. He or she is bound to have lots of ideas.